The San Diego Padres, who hold the rights to holdout Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu, want to resolve his situation within the next week to 10 days, according to a league source, and are pushing to either sign the right-hander or trade him.
And the Orioles are interested. Club officials from the Padres and Orioles were expected to talk again yesterday, with San Diego providing a list of requested players that included outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, minor-leaguers, perhaps pitcher Rocky Coppinger and a sum of cash.
Irabu is considered an amazing talent -- his fastball reportedly has been clocked at 100 mph -- and the Padres thought they had achieved a coup when they acquired his rights from Chiba Lotte. However, since the New York Yankees expressed an interest in Irabu, the pitcher has been saying he wants to play for the Yankees, and that he won't play for the Padres.
Some in baseball believe that Padres officials, furious at what they consider to be blatant tampering by the Yankees, would prefer to trade Irabu to a direct competitor of the Yankees, such as the New York Mets or the Orioles.
Irabu might continue to sabotage those efforts, however. His agent, Dom Nomura, reiterated yesterday that he would not discuss a contract with any team other than the Yankees. And what would Irabu do if he doesn't sign? "We'll sit out," Nomura said.
Nomura said the Padres have not told him of any trade talks with the Orioles or the Mets. Presumably, any deal San Diego might make would be contingent on the receiving team signing Irabu.
Mussina goes to bat
For once, there was little interest in how Mike Mussina pitched in yesterday's 9-7 win over the Montreal Expos. More attention was given to his single off right-hander Pedro Martinez leading off the third inning.
Martinez is one of the toughest pitchers in baseball, but he was no match for Mussina, who pulled a fastball into right field. He raced to third on Brady Anderson's double and scored on B.J. Surhoff's bouncer to second.
Mussina took eight swings during batting practice to get ready. What if he had taken 16?
"I would have gone deep," he said.
Once Mussina reached first base, he was greeted by former Oriole David Segui. "He wanted to know if I was going to steal and I said, "Yeah, I've got the green light on every pitch,' " Mussina said. "So he played behind me and Brady ripped one down the line."
Setback for Gruber
Kelly Gruber's comeback hit another snag yesterday when he strained his right hamstring leading off in the first inning of the B game against the Montreal Expos.
"My hammy stiffened up running out a ball halfway down the line," said Gruber, who hasn't played in a regular-season game since 1993. "I've never pulled a hammy before so I don't know what it feels like. I'll take it day to day and see what I can do. Hopefully, it's just a strain, it's just tight. I don't need any setbacks. I've had four years [of them]. That's enough."
Gruber, who is two years removed from fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck, is hitless in 14 at-bats.
Anderson is ejected
Anderson was ejected in the sixth inning after taking a third strike from home plate umpire Brian Gibbons. He began to walk toward the dugout, then turned and said something to Gibbons. He again headed toward the bench, then spun and walked to within inches of Gibbons, calmly spoke a few words and was thrown out.
Anderson, who drove to the stadium with Mussina, stopped to sign autographs on his way to the clubhouse. "No time for media," Mussina told a group of reporters. "Traffic's going to be heavy."
When told it appeared he had every intention of getting tossed, Anderson said, "No, [Gibbons] had every intention. I just told him he missed two out of three that at-bat. That's pretty good. He said if I come back one more time "
Anderson didn't consider the ejection part of the umpires' latest get-tough policy, since Gibbons works in the International League. "It wasn't that big of a deal. Just your garden-variety ejection," he said.
Haynes in good form
Jimmy Haynes went the first three innings in the B game and allowed just one hit and struck out four. He threw more changeups, and arguably looked his best since 1995.
"It felt good, real good," he said. "I had all my pitches working. I got them all over the plate. [The changeup] has been good for me, so I wanted to use it a little more today and try to keep the hitters off-balance a little more to give my fastball a chance to work."
Pitching coach Ray Miller noticed something else about Haynes: he walked off the mound smiling. That didn't happen much last season, when he lost his spot in the starting rotation, pitched in the minors and wound up being sent home early. And it wasn't evident after his two-inning stint in Sunday's B game against the Expos, when he gave up three runs and five hits.
"That's all he needs right now, to feel good about himself," Miller said. "His arm will take care of everything else. I'm happy for him. At a young age, he's been through a lot."